Covid-19 (Next Steps)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th July 2020.

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The First Minister:

We are doing antibody testing for surveillance purposes.

The advice that we have is that that is the useful way of using it right now. Although tests have become more reliable, they are not yet reliable enough for it to be reasonable for us to use them among the wider population to tell individuals whether they have had the virus and—crucially—whether they are immune to Covid. In fact, a letter was written last week or the week before by a significant number of clinicians in support of the approach that we are taking in Scotland, which I have just outlined.

We have to be really careful about this, because even if we get to the point—and from my layperson’s understanding, I think that we are getting closer to the point—at which a test can tell an individual whether they have antibodies to Covid, we do not yet understand what that means. We do not understand whether that gives a person immunity for a week, a month, a year, five years, or indeed at all. Therefore, we have to be very careful about raising the public’s expectations of what antibody testing of individuals can do.

However, we are using antibody testing for surveillance and we will continue to extend that programme as the science tells us that it is useful and effective.